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Committee Questions the Interior Department’s Lack of Transparency and Objectivity in Animas Spill Response

WASHINGTON, D.C., December 9, 2015 -

During the Committee’s oversight hearing on the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Role in the EPA’s Animas Spill, Committee members raised concerns about the DOI’s response to the spill, the lack of transparency and objectivity and the narrow scope of the Bureau of Reclamation’s (BOR) report.  Secretary Sally Jewell’s testimony four months after the spill raised several concerns, including:

  • Secretary Jewell admitted to Rep. Fleming (R-LA) that despite DOI’s jurisdiction over federal and tribal lands impacted by the spill, she did not visit any of the impacted sites following the spill.
  • Secretary Jewell’s repeated insistence that the BOR report’s scope was strictly technical in nature and was agreed upon between the agencies last August differed drastically from EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy’s insistence that the outcome of the BOR report would hold people accountable and examine the criminal, civil, or negligent nature of their actions.
  • To Rep. Beyer’s (D-VA) concerns, Secretary Jewell oddly claimed that there was no criminal activity – despite repetitively testifying that the report did not examine the possible criminal or negligent nature of the actions that lead to the spill and that DOI didn’t have authority to investigate such matters. Furthermore, DOI admitted that it did not request information about the internal deliberations at EPA that led to the spill.
  • The Committee had requested documents and information on DOI’s role in early September, and within recent few weeks received thousands of pages, including nearly 300 pages of heavily redacted documents, underscoring concerns of DOI’s lack of transparency.

This afternoon, Chairman Bishop requested a GAO report on the scope, objectivity, and thoroughness of the BOR report.

Contact: Committee Press Office 202-226-9019

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